There was a point in time where siblings Anthony and Sergio Pettis vowed they would never compete on the same UFC fight card as one another. That proclamation has since been rendered null and void, with the Milwaukee, Wisconsin-natives having shared the same Octagon three times before this weekend at UFC 229. The first occurrence took place in December 2014 at UFC 181, where both emerged victorious. A few months later, they tempted fate once again at UFC 185, although that proved to be a costly decision with losses being dealt out to the brothers; the dual defeats were made even worse by the fact Anthony was dethroned as the king of his division in the main event.
So with each earning victories in the first instance while falling to the losing end in the second attempt, it was only fitting that the third time they took part in the same card at UFC 197 in April 2016, the results were split; Sergio earned a decision victory on the main event of the preliminary card while Anthony fell via the same result.
Saturday night on the UFC 229 card in Las Vegas inside the T-Mobile Arena, the Pettis brothers will march into competition together once again to see if they can repeat the glory they achieved at UFC 181 when they each walked out with a fresh number in the "W" column. Sergio (17-3), the No. 2-ranked flyweight contender, takes the headlining position of the preliminary card again when he squares off with Jussier Formiga. Meanwhile, later in the night, big brother Anthony (21-7) finds himself returning to the main card on pay-per-view as he takes on another former lightweight champion, Tony Ferguson, in the co-main event leading into the Conor McGregor vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov showdown for the lightweight crown.
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But when it comes down to it, the Pettis siblings will be looking for more than just wins this weekend. Along with those wins will come something that each will be searching for in their own unique ways: respect.
Can Sergio finally earn the slightest bit of respect?: It looks sexy to point out that Sergio is the No. 2-ranked flyweight in UFC. Sure, that's not No. 1 or even champion, but it's still solid positioning and should be enough to make you a respected name in the UFC universe. Within a male division that quite possibly is the most disrespected in the entire company, though, that's not exactly how it works.
Sergio has been successful, having won five of his last six fights with the lone loss coming to reigning champion Henry Cejudo. But the 25-year-old is seen simply as a sound fighter, capable of filling up a card spot as opposed to someone deserving of a slot on the main card. This level of perceived disrespect is something that's not been lost on older brother Anthony.
"UFC, I don't know what Sergio has to do to get on the main card," Anthony told Ariel Helwani last month. "He's No. 2 in the world fighting No. 5 or No. 6 in the world and they are fighting on the undercard. Show the kid some respect, he's busting his ass, and I see how hard he's working. It's kind of offensive to see him on the undercard."
Will Sergio earn himself that coveted spot on a PPV main card in the near future with a victory over the No. 5-ranked fighter in the division on Saturday night? Maybe, maybe not. But with Cejudo's recent title-claiming victory over Demetrious Johnson, we've learned that the flyweight division may be wide open for the first time in a long time. Eventually, Sergio's sustained success will be impossible to ignore, and that main card showcase opportunity will come.
Every little bit helps, and that road to championship respect runs through UFC 229 on Saturday night.
Can Anthony gain championship-level respect back?: The 31-year-old affectionately known as "Showtime" was once the king of the lightweight division we now revere, reigning as champion from August 2013, when he took the title from Benson Henderson, to March 2015, when it was taken from him by Rafael dos Anjos in a dominant decision loss.
From there, the wheels simply came off. Anthony went on to lose five of his next seven fights, including a third-round TKO loss to Max Holloway at UFC 206 in which Pettis attempted to regain UFC gold, this time within the featherweight ranks for the interim title. That experiment proved disastrous from the get-go, however, as Anthony missed weight and was ineligible to leave as champ with a win. Matters got a little worse from that point when the former champion suffered what was ruled a TKO loss to lightweight contender Dustin Poirier after a broken rib ended his night prematurely.
"Showtime" was no more, and the heavily-lauded lightweight division would never be forced to treat him as a concern again.
Then, UFC 226 happened.
Anthony stepped into the Octagon with Michael Chiesa and earned Performance of the Night with a second-round submission win in a catchweight bout after the latter failed to make the required weight. One quick look at Twitter on that night and the cries of "SHOWTIME IS BACK!" flooded the timelines. Was it viable to claim that following a win over Chiesa? Probably not. Will it be with a win on Saturday? Yes.
At UFC 229 in the co-main event spotlight, Anthony battles Ferguson, who's making his return from a devastating knee injury this past spring that pulled him out of a scheduled bout with Nurmagomedov. With a 10-fight winning streak intact and ranked No. 2 among the lightweights, Ferguson is viewed as one of the most dangerous fighters in the world, knee injury aside.
Should Anthony step into competition on Saturday and bring an end to the vaunted win streak of Ferguson, then it'll be impossible to dismiss the journey he's on to challenging atop the lightweight division again. It's been quite a while since he was respected as a championship-level threat, but having his hand raised in victory will earn a good amount of that "Showtime" respect back.
That's what it's all about at UFC 229 for these siblings: respect. And on Saturday night in Vegas, they have the opportunity to scoop some up -- together once again.